Maryville driver rescued from Little River crash
By Wes Wade | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
A Maryville driver is lucky to be alive, rescuers said, after she was pulled from a partially submerged vehicle that crashed into the Little River Saturday morning.
Blount County Fire Chief Doug McClanahan said members of the fire department’s swift water and dive team were dispatched to a single-vehicle wreck on Ellejoy Road near Old Walland Highway and Coulters Bridge at 7:05 a.m. Saturday.
Rescuers found a Mercury Tracer partially submerged in the river, trapping the driver — Darlene Faye Cardin, 19, Daisy Circle, Maryville — inside the car with the water up to her shoulders. The vehicle had run off the roadway and struck a tree, which kept the vehicle from being swept downstream, a Blount County Sheriff’s Office report noted.
While the tree kept the car in place, McClanahan said, the car was very unstable and could have been swept away at any moment. The river was also unusually high as a result of Friday night’s storms, the Sheriff’s Office report stated.
“If it hadn’t have been for that tree that she hit, (the vehicle) probably would have skidded down the river very quickly,” McClanahan said.
Rescuers weren’t sure how long Cardin had been in the water, as reports indicate that a passing motorist heard Cardin’s screams for help and called 911 at around 7 a.m. A quick rescue was important to prevent hypothermia, McClanahan said, as rescuers estimated the water to be around 40 to 45 degrees.
“(Such rescues) are always challenging,” McClanahan said. “Especially with the high waters. There’s a risk not only to the victim, but also to the rescuers, so we have to be extremely cautious with what we do and have to concentrate on getting the patient and all of us safely back home, too.”
Firefighters immediately donned life vests and placed ladders and safety ropes over the embankment to safely get to the victim. Cardin was also strapped into a life vest for her safety, McClanahan said.
“The car was fixing to slip away,” he said. “The real concern was making sure it became stable. If it would have got into the water, there’s no doubt in my mind it would have sank quickly.”
Rescuers were able to quickly stabilize the vehicle with a heavy cable from a Butler Wrecker Service tow truck. The swift water team was then able to remove the windshield and pull Cardin to safety. She was placed in a rescue basket and hoisted up the bank with rescue ropes.
He said it took 27 minutes from the time firefighters were dispatched until Cardin was pulled from the partially submerged vehicle. She was then transported to Blount Memorial Hospital by Rural/Metro Ambulance Service where she was treated and released.
A total of 12 firefighters and six truck responded. The Blount County Sheriff’s Office and Tennessee Highway Patrol were also on scene.
Cause of crash
According to the Sheriff’s Office report, Cardin said she was traveling east on Ellejoy Road when another vehicle traveled over the line. She said she then tried to avoid hitting the other car. Cardin’s vehicle exited a left hand curve and skidded across into the opposite lane, where it left the roadway and traveled parallel to the road for a short distance.
The front of the vehicle grazed a utility pole and slid off the river bank before striking a tree. The car then continued until it struck the large tree which kept it from sliding completely into the river. The back of the car up to the front seat was then submerged in the river water rising up to Cardin’s shoulders.
“We know she was extremely cold, but in my opinion, she was extremely lucky to be alive,” McClanahan said.